GCP Energy Audits ... GCP Part I: The Planning Begins

Editor’s note: This is the first in a multi-part series that shows what goes into an energy audit by chronicling its own energy audit.

Our team’s job is to encourage you to improve the energy efficiency of your building. Well, guess what? We just put our money where our mouth is! What do I mean by that? We recently conducted an energy audit of our own building that we now proudly own.

And now that we are recently minted property owners, our facilities and finance teams are laser-focused on saving energy in own building. That’s important because the money we don’t spend on energy costs represents that much more of an investment we can make in our members and broader business community.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is we’re a lot like you. When it comes to a commitment to energy efficiency, our first step in the decision process is to bring key stakeholders to the table. We involve them in the planning process from the very beginning because this facilitates stakeholder buy-in and decreases the likelihood of major pushback or changes down the road.

It might look a little different at your company, but here are our stakeholders:

  • Our finance team is tasked with running a well-designed building as efficiently and comfortably as possible for ourselves and our tenants, while managing operating expenses and efficiently managing expenses.
  •  Our marketing team wants to highlight our innovation and efficiency.
  • Our in-house energy team seeks to identify, prioritize and maximize resources where possible for members.
  • Our senior staff wants to ensure our investments are justified for a nonprofit organization.

Looking inward

During the past 7-plus years, we have conducted “health checks” on more than 1,000 buildings and identified opportunities for energy efficiency and operational savings. And then the time came we did the same for our own building and so we began to develop a long-term plan.

As such, our energy team recently spent a day assessing the building from top to bottom, interior and exterior, inside and out, including a thorough review of mechanical drawings and feasibility studies that have been performed over the years. Our next steps will be to build the energy model from our software program to help us estimate cost and savings projections, payback and return on investment from identified opportunities. Our energy team will then align those recommendations with available incentives and rebates to provide a plan of action for the facilities and finance team at GCP.

In addition to these future investments, we know it is imperative to create cultural change. Giving employees the information they need to become better energy stewards has a profound impact on our ability to save energy and money. We know behavioral change is not only effective but also creates a culture that facilitates the adoption of technical measures. So, the two must complement each other to be the most effective.

For now, we crunch numbers and lay out a plan. Stay tuned for the action steps we develop during our audit.

Learn more about the energy audit process by contacting GCP’s energy team at 216-592-2205 or energy@gcpartnership.com. And explore more of what the team does by clicking here.

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  • Next up: Hy-Tech Camps: Get an early start on your awesome tech career!
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  • Hy-Tech Camps: Get an early start on your awesome tech career!

    “What do you want to be when you grow up?” This is a question we repeatedly ask children, and it’s always interesting to hear their answers. Studies show that students are influenced by their surroundings from a very young age. These influences could be family members or even things they see on TV and in the movies. The most popular jobs kids learn about are usually attorneys, doctors, nurses, police officers, etc. Unfortunately, their chances of exposure to a Software Developer role – among other jobs in the information technology field – are very slim. That’s what we’re trying to change here at Hyland.

    “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

    This is a question we repeatedly ask children, and it’s always interesting to hear their answers. Studies show that students are influenced by their surroundings from a very young age. These influences could be family members or even things they see on TV and in the movies. The most popular jobs kids learn about are usually attorneys, doctors, nurses, police officers, etc.

    Unfortunately, their chances of exposure to a Software Developer role – among other jobs in the information technology field – are very slim. That’s what we’re trying to change here at Hyland.

    In 2020, there will be 1.4 million computing jobs available. However, there will only be 400,000 computer science students looking to fill those jobs.

    That’s 1 million more jobs than students available!

    Encouraging high-tech education
    Obviously, we see a huge educational gap that we can help close. As Hyland continues to grow as a company, we will need to continue hiring skilled individuals for our technical positions. If we don’t do our part to help students down paths in computer science, this gap means – among other things – we might have trouble filling those roles.

    How can we help fix that problem?

    If we start exposing students to the different opportunities within computer science at an early age, we can work towards closing the gap. So Hyland started a series of Hy-Tech Camps this summer, inviting incoming 7th grade students through outgoing high school seniors to attend.

    All the camps are free to students and are led by Hyland employees. Each camp is a one-evening session that teaches students about a technology topic. The topics range from learning how to build a webpage to learning how to build a PC.

    Enabling high-tech education
    If their schools don’t teach it, these camps could be one of the only opportunities for students to learn about computer science. Our goal is to provide students with resources and expert guidance, so they walk away from our camps with an interest in technology and motivation to learn more.

    Through these camps, we aim to give students a way to learn about the career paths available to them.

    As the largest software company in the area with hundreds of technical employees, Hyland has a huge opportunity to give back to the community and make an impact on the younger generation. Through our summer camps and other technical outreach programs, we can help close the computer science gap.

    See you at camp!

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  • Next up: Smart Manufacturing: Getting Value from IoT Data
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  • Smart Manufacturing: Getting Value from IoT Data

    Here is your crash course on setting up an IoT solution to monitor machine efficiency in a manufacturing environment. Follow these five steps to discover the value that IoT can add to your business.

     

    The Internet of Things (or IoT) has been hailed as the next big thing to revolutionize manufacturing. A series of sensors can be attached to manufacturing equipment to continuously measure machine status, output, temperature and other factors that influence production, maintenance, and efficiency. Through machine learning and artificial intelligence, these data can then be used to predict and optimize maintenance, output, and performance. The idea of being able to continuously monitor your entire production line in near real time sounds both amazing and overwhelming…not to mention expensive. For this blog post, Pandata teamed up with an Industrial IoT expert, Matt Zupan, to put together a crash course on setting up an IoT solution to monitor machine efficiency in a manufacturing environment. We hope to demonstrate that IoT solutions both add significant business value and can be accessible to the manufacturer both large and small.

    Step 1: Define a clear and manageable goal

    While it may be tempting to immediately wire up all machines and then figure out what to do with the data later, it is important to first set a tractable business goal to minimize wasted time and money. In addition to sensor data, any business intelligence requires additional data sources. When measuring machine efficiency, that additional information includes production schedules. What pain points do you have with production and how might data be able to give insight into the problem? For an IoT solution to be successful, one must also start small with just a few machines and key personnel.

    Step 2: Sensor selection and implementation plan.

    In addition to the technical specifications, important aspects to keep in mind at this stage are the goal, cost, and scalability. Off-the-shelf sensor hardware is increasingly reliable and affordable. However, unless you are a $100M+ company, it’s likely that your production equipment is a hodgepodge of things old and new. Some machines can communicate over ethernet, which as an IoT practitioner is ideal. Others communicate digitally. Sometimes, a transducer must be precisely installed, and this can potentially be a multi-day process for the most skilled technician. Depending on the difficulty of connecting sensors, it may be necessary to refine your goal. Security should always be a top consideration when dealing with anything internet-enabled. A single sensor with a default password can let a hacker into the entire intranet.

    Step 3:  Data environment.

    Next, it is time to design a way to centralize and store the data. If you are buying sensors that include cloud data storage, this may be already set. However, if you are designing custom sensors, want to have more flexibility, or integrate across sensors from different brands, then it may be a better option to build your own database. As insights gained will likely rely on organizational data, a common interface will be required. Factors to consider include cloud versus on-premise server, existing infrastructure, and scalability. While some sensors will have built-in integration with more common platforms, there may be some need for significant data engineering.

    Step 4:  How will you look at your data?

    Dashboards distill data into manageable visuals so that the user can gain insight into the overall behavior of the data. If you have a sensor that comes with its own dashboard, then that is a great place to start. If not, dashboarding tools such as PowerBI or Tableau are relatively inexpensive, user-friendly and contain manufacturing-specific features. They can interface with sophisticated databases as well as traditional spreadsheets, providing a low barrier for entry as manufacturing data analysis is today often done with spreadsheets.

    Step 5:  Analytics

    For many users, dashboarding may be enough to answer the initial business question. However, others may want to use sensor data for predictive analytics or machine learning. IoT data can grow quickly, especially if multiple sensors are used. This kind of data set may be ideal for complex analyses to identify patterns. A few example applications include predictive maintenance, optimally distributing workloads across machines, and supply chain optimization. The firms which can marry production data and quality data in real time to get predictive insights are going to be the most formidable moving into the future.

    Conclusions

    Setting up a “smart” manufacturing environment should be achievable for even the small and midsized manufacturers. However, it is essential to always have a well-defined goal, to start small, and validate at every stage. The value gained in using data to optimize processes will likely far outweigh the initial investment, setting your organization up for long term success.

    Just starting out with IoT applications and need help with data infrastructure or analytics? Pandata can help set you on the right path.  Contact us at hello@pandata.co to start the conversation.

    Hannah Arnson is Lead Data Scientist at Pandata and Matt Zupan is an Industrial IoT Systems Architect at Micron Manufacturing.

     

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  • Next up: GiveCamp Crushes Support for Local Non-Profits Again in 2015
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  • GiveCamp Crushes Support for Local Non-Profits Again in 2015

    What happens when 200+ developers and tech folks convene for a weekend in Cleveland?  Magic, that’s what.  Oh, and really great website and software projects for non-profits in Northeast Ohio too. Cleveland GiveCamp http://clevelandgivecamp.org/ makes this magic happen, and they’ve been doing it for six years now.  Annually GiveCamp recruits 100s of volunteers and selects worthy tech projects from local non-profits.  It’s an incredible, intense weekend that’s huge and so very beneficial to organizations doing important work in our community. Folks from Cleveland GiveCamp shared some details on this year’s weekend, which ran 7/17-20. 

    What happens when 200+ developers and tech folks convene for a weekend in Cleveland?  Magic, that’s what. 

    Oh, and really great website and software projects for non-profits in Northeast Ohio too.

    Cleveland GiveCamp makes this magic happen, and they’ve been doing it for six years now.  Annually GiveCamp recruits 100s of volunteers and selects worthy tech projects from local non-profits.  It’s an incredible, intense weekend that’s huge and so very beneficial to organizations doing important work in our community.

    Folks from Cleveland GiveCamp shared some details on this year’s weekend, which ran 7/17-20.

    OHTec:  How many volunteers did you have this year?  How many non-profits were supported?  How does that compare to the last couple of years?

    GiveCamp: Our volunteer numbers remain relatively consistent from year to year. We had about 200 volunteers supporting 19 nonprofit projects. Our project number was down slightly, but that was by design. We had a few larger projects that we wanted to make sure were staffed properly and could succeed within the weekend timeframe.

    OHTec:  What kind of projects did the volunteers work on this year?  What kind of impacts can the non-profits expect from some of those projects?

    GiveCamp:  The largest percentage of projects was websites. Given the changes coming via Google for search and SEO, it was important for many organizations to update their sites to be mobile responsive.  

    But we had some really different and amazing projects this year. One was an online game, another was a mobile GPS-enabled web app, and there were a few really cool database projects that will create major efficiencies for nonprofits.

    And all 19 projects launched successfully at the end of GiveCamp! That’s pretty amazing considering the scope of some of them.

    OHTec:  What were some of the most unique skills shared by the volunteers?  Like writing code while juggling or reciting Shakespeare?

    GiveCamp:  Everyone at GiveCamp has unique skills to help their team. But some that stuck out were a 3-D animator and some game designers, which were critical to the success of one of the projects. We also had a volunteer with Salesforce for nonprofit experience, that skill helped keep a team from having to develop a fully custom product.

    OHTec:  We heard there were some really cool projects this year, very different from projects in the past.  Can you share some details on those?

    GiveCamp:  We produced a children’s educational game for Veggie U. There was a team of 19 on that project and this is the first time we ever produced a game at GiveCamp. There was also a mobile GPS-enabled web app for the Cleveland Cultural Gardens to help people navigate the gardens AND find out information on the different sculptures and features in the gardens. The nonprofit has the ability to easily add and update the data on its own. It works really well on a phone for those who are walking through the gardens.

    There was also a project for ESOP that will greatly improve efficiency for the organization. The online data collection platform will allow their staff to enter information remotely into a repository that automatically aggregates information. In the past, staff entered information on a spread sheet and that information was manually calculated by a staff member every Monday. It would take that person a whole day. Now, it is done automatically. It creates efficiency so that person can do other things to help that organization. That’s pretty cool.

    OHTec:  Completing this work in just one weekend is demanding, how did the volunteers deal with “sleep deprivation”?

    GiveCamp:  RedBull, coffee, ice cream on Saturday night…. Also, we have an amazing team of volunteers that we call Team Z. They are the food committee. We feed all of our volunteers during the weekend and I must say that we eat pretty well at GiveCamp!

    I also have to put in a plug for our sponsors here. Thanks to sponsors like OHTec, BlueBridge NetworksOnShift  and others,  we’re able to do this whole event. We feed and supply the necessary caffeine/supplies for our volunteers Friday – Sunday as thanks for their dedication to the event. Our sponsors make this possible. 

    Cleveland GiveCamp is an amazing group of folks committed to using their skills to make the CLE an even better place to live, work and thrive.  We can’t thank them enough for their efforts and we’re really proud to help out in our small way. 

    And here’s some great (and kind of embarrassing) pictures from the weekend 

    Well done, Tech and great job GiveCamp!

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  • Next up: Grammy Nona Gave Me a Virus: A Ransomware Story
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  • Grammy Nona Gave Me a Virus: A Ransomware Story

    It might be easier and more prevalent to be infected by ransomware than you think. And it doesn’t just impact big companies. Learn what you can do to protect yourself.

    Not all people who deliver ransomware are evil doers in dark corners of the world working in Batman villain-like hideouts. And they don’t all live in their mom’s basement huddled around an LCD screen in a dimly lit corner eating cheese puffs and slamming energy drinks. Sometimes they’re the people who gave you hot chocolate on a cold winter’s day while making fresh hot pizzelles and watching their “stories,” aka soap operas, on TV. That’s right, Grammy Nona just infected you with RANSOMWARE.

    Well, she didn’t, it was really some dude that got her email from the time she signed up for something that she thought was something else and it looked “so real” in her email. It never occurred to her that it wasn’t really a pizzelle-of-the-month recipe swapping message board with a CompuServe email address. It also never occurred to her that Password1 or 123456 is not really a secure password—it was just easier for her to remember so she never got around to changing it.

    Education is the best protection

    You might think the best way to help protect yourself and your company from getting hit in the first place would be to buy the latest high-tech device and big-time protection software. While it is vital to have a good solid end-point security to prevent malware infections, as well as security that protects web browsing, controls outbound traffic, protects system settings, and proactively stops phishing attacks and continuously monitors individual end points, remember that the guys doing this are always a step ahead of us. That is all they do is try and find ways around what we deploy, ways around the technology. What they can’t program for are … educated users.

    That’s right. Our best protection is to educate users and the weakest link is uneducated users. No matter what tech is in place, the user that clicks on that link from Grammy Nona who doesn’t have the latest whiz bang firewall and whose password is 123456 can give you ransomware. Have a bi-monthly, or at least monthly, training and information update meeting on the latest phishing and spam threats that are out there. Show them how to protect themselves and they will protect you. Also make sure this training is included in new hire orientation.

    Put your Computer on lockdown

    Creating strong Windows policies is another must, including such actions as:

    • Blocking executables in temp or temp+appdata (this just means not letting programs run in certain directories);
    • blocking access to VSS copy service (This is a program that has to do with making a quick backup copy of your data that Windows uses for security. When used properly it is a very useful tool); and
    • Putting .SCR, .PIF and .CPL files in the user’s temp, Program Data or desktop (These are file types that hackers use to trick the system into locking down your files).

    In some programs you can automate frequently used tasks by creating and running macros. A macro is a series of commands and instructions that you group together as a single command to accomplish a task automatically. Disabling macros and autorun is another area to lock down. Lots of Crypto Ransomware use macros. Macros can easily be disabled in the Trust Center in Office. You can selectively turn on ones you know and trust if you use them in your business.

    While autorun is a nice feature, it is also used as a back door to get access to your data by malware. Here’s an example: Say you get a nifty promotion USB drive in the mail. You plug it in to take some files home for the night and as soon as you plug it in, autorun looks there and runs any .exe file. Suddenly, your screen starts flashing and you can’t stop it and before you know it, your files are all changed to .enc files and there is a countdown clock on your screen telling you to send $300 to a bank in some third-world country along with a bag of cheese curls and some Red Bull.

    Better have a backup

    Make sure you not only have a backup, but also a business continuity plan in place. If you have a USB drive attached to your PC, that’s not a business continuity plan. That is not even really a backup because it’s connected to your PC and all you’re really doing is copying files from time to time, so it will also be encrypted. Your data needs to be “Air Gapped,” meaning not directly connected to the source of the infection.

    Now, I know some of the things I wrote here sound complex, but really, they are not. Believe it or not, this article is not aimed at big companies with IT departments the size of Texas. I wrote this for the small- and medium-sized businesses of the North Coast. The things I mentioned here are not out of your reach nor should they be. Frankly, I get more phone calls from people I have contacted in the past who said, “No, we don’t need any of that stuff,” than you might think. It is that exact line of thinking that these bad guys depend on.

    Ransomware is a $325 billion a year business. You only hear about it when the big guys get hit but the bulk of that $325 billion comes from companies just like yours. Companies that thought, “I have Google Drive and I backup my things there” or “I have Office 365, so my data is safe in the cloud.” Neither of those things will protect you. Just because your data is in “the cloud” doesn’t mean it can’t get infected. There are reasons people say, “I got hit by a virus.” A virus spreads and without prior immunization or a proven cure, you will get sick just like these malicious programs will spread to “the cloud” from your desktop.

    Vic Manfredi is president of Affordable-IT, which provides an array of technical helpdesk support, computer support, cloud computing services and consulting services. Affordable-IT has been serving businesses in the Northeast Ohio area since 2006. You can contact Vic via email at vic@affordable-it.com.

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  • Next up: Green Leasing
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  • Green Leasing

    COSE and the Institute for Market Transformation are currently working together and collaborating with the Cleveland 2030 District throughout the greater Cleveland area to help commercial buildings save money and energy by connecting landlords and tenants around energy efficiency—particularly when it comes to the lease. Watch to learn how a green lease can be a competitive advantage to your business.


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